When you’re on a good thing, you stick to it – Volvo is doing that with its latest addition to the SUV range, the XC40, although it’s with a twist.
Whereas the XC90 and XC60, both touted by many as impressive machines, spring from the same platform, the XC40 uses a different foundation – Volvo equates it to being a cousin, rather than a sibling, of the larger two models.
Sampled in T5 R-Design guise, the new XC40 will eventually include a three-cylinder as well as a hybrid variant – the latter some years away and the former later next year – but for now we’re offered a Momentum model as well as the sportier version driven at the local launch in the Adelaide hills.
There’s no mistaking the family from which it comes, but the XC40 has been given sculpted a little differently to give it some road stance despite not taking up any more space on the road than BMW’s X1 – the XC40 covers a similar footprint at 4425mm long, 1863mm wide, 1652mm tall and sitting on a 2702mm wheelbase
Scalloping into the body work at key points, a more pronounced ‘forehead’ on the bonnet and a shoulder line reminiscent of the XC60/90 duo (the head and tail lights too are familial things) but cut differently give the XC40 a shapely look, with stumpy front and rear overhangs which is to the benefit of the interior space, with contrasting roof colours to the rest of the body also a point of difference.
Following the brand’s styling theme from the larger members of the family, the Volvo XC40 boasts an understated cabin style that is comfortable and effective in most of its workings.
The smaller modular platform – different to the XC60/90 underpinnings – has delivered in terms of interior space – at 191cm tall it’s not often I can dwell in the rear seat behind my own driving position, but in this instance head and leg room allowed exactly that, which is not a common occurrence in this or several other market segments.
Seat cushioning is on the firm side of comfortable but the front seats do offer a reasonable amount of lateral support; the driver is able to get into a good position behind the reach and rake adjustable leather-clad wheel, with a useful range of powered seat adjustment.
All-round vision for the driver is reasonably good front and a little less so through the rear, although the back headrests fold forward at the touch of a button to give a little better vision to the rear, aided in the top-spec models by 360-degree cameras.
The cabin is ventilated by the clever filtered climate control, controlled from the vertical ‘tablet’ style touchscreen – it’s not too difficult to use, but some systems are buried a little too deep;
The virtual instrument panel, displaying ‘dials’ and the satnav mapping between them, is easy to read but less so to use, with some of the steering wheel buttons a little difficult to decipher.
There’s ample – and clever – in-cabin storage, with front speakers moved from the doors to the dash to allow for larger useful door pockets, as well as removable lidded bin, a flip-out hook from the glovebox to keep the takeaway food bag upright.
Volvo says there’s 460 litres of boot space (up to a maximum of 1336 litres), accessed by a quick powered tailgate without any annoying beeps.
The load area is clever, with a versatile folding floor that can keep items out of sight or be folded up to securely hold shopping bags in place.
The Volvo XC40 standard features list includes:
- Tilt and reach steering adjustment
- 360-deg cameras
- LED Headlights
- Automatic headlights/wipers
- Digital radio
- Heated seats
- Electric park brake
- Active cruise control
- Satellite navigation
- Leather trim
- Dual zone climate control
Drive and Engine
The XC40’s chassis balance between control and ride quality is commendable, taking the brand another step in the right direction in terms of steering and suspension for local confidtions.
Around town, the ride quality heads toward firm but not often harsh, with little road and tyre noise (at least not until we hit coarse-chip roads) from the Pirelli P-Zero rubber.
The small turbo petrol engine is flexible and willing, delivering enough to get the 1.7 tonne-SUV through the traffic without concern – 100km/h is reached in a claimed 6.4 seconds.
The power steering is a little over-enthusiastic – fine in tight carparks and mundane driving – but changing the Drive Mode to Dynamic should probably deliver more of a change to the weight.
The system doesn’t relay it to the driver as much as would be ideal on a swift and winding country road run, but the overall behaviour of the suspension on a winding back roads is surprisingly good.
The auto’s shifter also takes some familiarity, requiring two pulls or pushes of the lever to complete a trip through Neutral to go from Reverse to Drive and vice-versa.
The XC40 is yet to be rated by NCAP or anyone else, but the brand has history on its side when it comes to putting together a top-notch safety package and has done its own extensive crash-test work.
It is unlikely to break its unbroken 5-star NCAP rating streak with its small SUV.
The cabin is wrapped in an ultra-high-strength steel safety cage and contains dual front, driver’s knee, front-side and curtain airbags.
There’s the semi-autonomous active-steering Pilot Assist system, as well as the auto-braking City Safety system that detects pedestrians, vehicles (including oncoming traffic with braking and steering support for the driver), large animals and cyclists.
Also on the list is active lane departure and blind spot warning systems, rear cross traffic alert with automatic braking, active cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic LED headlights (with active feature on the up-spec models), parking assistance, hill start and descent control and the 360-degree cameras.
- cabin and cargo space
- ride and handling compromise
- cabin refinement
- safety features
Not So Good Bits
- Auto shifter
- Tyre noise
- Some controls not intuitive
One of the latest additions to the compact prestige SUV ranks, Volvo’s representative in the class is roomy, clever and fit-for-purpose. The Swedes are justified in being confident of demand exceeding supply and once the price point is lowered with the addition of the three-cylinder engine, that supply problem is likely to worsen.
Cloaked in an intriguingly-styled bodyshell, the XC40’s clever packaging and refined road manners, as well as its safety features, should put it high on shopping lists for compact SUV buyers.
Facts and Figures: 2018 Volvo XC40
- Engine: 0L turbo petrol 182kW/350Nm or 2.0L turbo diesel 140kW/400Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed auto, AWD
- Warranty: 3yrs
- Safety: Not yet tested
- Origin: Belgium
- Price:From $47,990